Palestinian administrative detainee Loay al-Ashqar ended his hunger strike after 49 days on Sunday, November 28. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS), al-Ashqar suspended his hunger strike after reaching an agreement with the Israeli prison authorities regarding his release. In recent weeks, a number of other Palestinian detainees in Israeli administrative detention have secured their freedom after resorting to prolonged hunger strikes.
Al-Ashqar, a 45-year-old father of eight from the village of Sida near Tulkarem in the occupied West Bank, was arrested in October 2021 and placed under illegal administrative detention following which he immediately launched his hunger strike. Israeli authorities reportedly employed various coercive tactics to force him to end his strike but failed to break his resolve. Al-Ashqar has been previously imprisoned several times by Israel. In total, he has spent more than eight years in Israeli prisons. During one of his incarcerations in 2005, he was subjected to extremely brutal interrogation by the Israeli authorities which left him paralyzed in his left leg. His brother Muhammad al-Ashqar was killed by the Israeli prison authorities in 2007 while being held in the Negev desert prison.
The other Palestinian detainees who suspended their hunger strikes in the last weeks were Kayed al-Fasfous, Miqdad al-Qawasmeh, Alaa al-Araj and Ayad al-Harimi, who ended their hunger strikes after 131, 113, 103 and 61 days, respectively. Due to the health issues and risk of death they faced from their lengthy hunger strikes, Israeli authorities were forced to negotiate their release in the wake of immense pressure from activists, human rights groups and the international community. There have been repeated calls for Israel to release all administrative detainees in its custody and put an end to the use of its illegal policy of administrative detention without charge or trial. Currently, there are around 4,650 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, of which 520 are being held in administrative detention based on secret evidence that is not shared with them or their lawyers.
Two more Palestinian administrative detainees, Hisham Abu Hawwash and Nidal Ballout, continue to be on hunger strike to protest their illegal detention. The two have completed 104 and 31 day on hunger strike, respectively. According to news reports, 39-year-old Hawwash’s health has severely deteriorated and he is being held at the medical clinic at Ramle prison. Reports add that despite his serious health condition, prison authorities have so far not transferred him to a nearby hospital for better medical treatment. Since October 2020, Hawwash has been reportedly issued three consecutive administrative detention orders of six months each, and subsequently another one for six months which was later reduced to four months after he embarked on hunger strike in protest.
27-year old Ballout’s hunger strike was not publicly known until recently as the Israeli prison authorities deliberately kept it secret. Information about his hunger strike only came to light after the prison authorities allowed a lawyer to meet him.